A popular blog going around features a spinning dancer that has been touted as a test of whether you are right-brained and creative or left-brained and logical. If you see the dancer spinning clockwise, the story goes, you are using more of your right brain, and if you see it moving counterclockwise, you are more of a left-brained person.

It is simply an optical illusion called a reversible, or ambiguous, image. Images like this one have been long studied by scientists to learn more about how vision works.

The silhouette image of the spinning dancer doesn’t have any depth cues. As a result, your eyes will sometimes see the dancer standing on her left leg and spinning to the right. And sometimes they will perceive her as standing on her right leg and spinning to the left. Most people, if they stare at the image long enough, will eventually see her turn both ways.

What’s happening here to cause the flip is something happening entirely within the visual system…it is believed that if science can understand why it is this figures reverse then we’re in a position to understand something pretty fundamental to how the visual system contributes to the conscious experience…another well known reversible image is the necker cube.

Sometimes, a person will stare at an image and it will never reverse. It is advised staring at one part of the image, such as the foot, and most of the time it will eventually flip. It is belived people who can’t see the reversal, may be that one underlying neural structure is more dominant, but once someone finally manages to see the flip, it will start to happen more often.

By printing a letter L or R on the calf and concentrate on the letter the spinning dancer will move clockwise or counterclockwise as shown in the top and bottom image.

Related Pages:
Our Delusional Self
Illusion of Reality
Words and Perception



9 Responses

  1. This is a horrid fraud.

    At the midpoint of the animation, when the dancer’s leg is straight out, a white line graces the side of her body for just a second. Look solely at that line in the two animations above and you will see that the whole animation is mirrored, and it has nothing to do with which side of your brain you’re using.

  2. Liana

    Fascinating observation !…I find if I watch the dancer moving left for any period of time my left brain becomes bored which allows the right brain to carry on with the view bringing about a new perception in the direction of the dancer.


  3. I went to the original wesite, posted above, and it was interesting to try this… If the right brain is present and future and the left brain is present and past, try thinking of something, that has emotion tied to it, from the past and the future. I am right brain dominant, but could change the direction if I looked to the periphery.

    The Dancer went right when I thought about a business I wanted to have, I could easily picture it while feeling good, then the Dancer went left when I thought about a painful experience in the past…

    I love this stuff.

  4. Jen,

    Yes,the letter L means it is easier to see the dancer move toward left while the R means the dancer moves to right.

    I wonder if the most important lesson for us to learn is how easily our senses can be fooled…interestingly,the right brain is more open to see all possibilities while the left tends to get stuck in one perception.


  5. This optical illusion was so much fun. My kids and I immediately saw the dancer going clockwise. After long focus of desparately trying to see it counter clockwise my duaghter and I finally were able to see it. My son, who is an artist could not, no matter how he tried, see her turn counter clockwise. When we got to the bottom one we saw it counter clockwise first. Does how we see it have to do with the letter on the leg?

  6. Hi Jinan,

    “Logic can only see one way but imagination can see any way.”~Albert Einstein


  7. I tested this with children and many non literate people and also few so called educated. One was an accountant. The accountant saw anti clock wise, me and another person saw clockwise and all the rest saw both sides happening. see again I am proving that the non literate is not brain damaged nor fragmented. So both their sides work. this balance is broken by schools and word dominated cultures.

  8. I believe this is how it’s done … The image is perfectly symetrical so it would be similar to having 2 images that are a mirror image of each other except one of the images is shifted by 180 degrees so to make the 2 silhouettes perfectly line up with no overlap. That way, their left to right / right to left sweeping motion across the 2 dimensional medium is always perfectly in line. If one was not shifted, then they would be pointing in opposite directions because that is what mirror image is. In essence, with the shift, it is like having two semi-transparent, animated (moving) silhouettes superimposed on each other. Because they are a mirror image and one is shifted 180 degrees, it appears they are moving opposite, or that’s how the 2 hemispheres perceive them differently.

  9. actually if you take the letters out entirely and look at the image as it originally is, you’ll see that the leg she’s standing on is rotating right [capture it frame by frame and they made it rotating clockwise] However, if you don’t add the white pixels on her upper thigh, you can flip flop the image depending on what side of the brain you’re using. Once you can make her switch back and forth, you’ll be able to see that her legs are both rotating in opposite directions. The one she’s standing on goes right, while the swinging leg goes left [or right. if you get good at it you can make her go both directions at the same time. She’ll even slow down her spinning]. just look at her swinging toes and her standing heel. At one point in one frame, you see the back of her heel AND the front of her toes at the same time. When it’s lined up,and her leg goes black, it’s whatever side of your brain you’re in that makes that crossing over go left or right.

    here’s the site with the original :

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